While many men enjoy being fathers, there are usually things about fatherhood they would rather do without.
However, Tyler Cloyd sees things differently. The 29-year-old Bellevue, Neb., native loves being a father so much that it can be said every day is Father’s Day for him. No trouble has yet been big enough for him to wish it was not part of fatherhood.
Cloyd is trying to use this same mindset in baseball. He underwent Tommy John surgery in early May and is now rehabbing his arm. He likely will not play in a game until next season, but he wants to maintain a positive attitude during a physical-therapy schedule that can easily be seen as tedious.
Tyler Cloyd recently spoke of his love for baseball and, more importantly, for his wife and children — and most importantly of all, for his rejuvenated Catholicism.
You played in the major leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2012 to 2013, so you know what it takes to get there. Do you expect to make it back once your arm has healed?
That’s what I work for, hope for and pray for, so that would be ideal. On the other hand — or the other arm — God has a plan for all of us; and for me, that may include the majors, and it may not. I’d prefer the first option, but God is indescribably smarter than I am, so whatever happens will be for the best.
People say that it’s easy to get to the majors but hard to stay there. I can relate to that, since I spent two years with the Phillies but have not been back to the majors yet. I have learned from my missteps in Philadelphia, and my time in the minor leagues and in Korea has helped, too.
In Philadelphia, I would sometimes think more about the batter I was facing than the pitch I should be throwing. Other times, in light of how one millimeter in the strike zone can mean the difference between a hit and an out, I would want to make every pitch perfect.
I’ve learned that, even in what we call a “perfect game,” it’s impossible to have literally everything go exactly as you’d like it to — and that even the All-Star hitters are human beings. Now, I tend not to think about how good, bad or mediocre the batter is, and I’ve relaxed my desire for complete perfection. I just do what I can, and once the ball is out of my hands, it’s out of my hands.
You’ve given the reins over to God.
In baseball and in anything else, God is the one who is in control. He knows that, of course, but when we know it, things go more smoothly. We’re freed of unreasonable expectations, and we’re empowered to humbly walk with God as his children.
Catholicism was always something there for me in the background, but for many years, it took a backseat to baseball. Pitching was my thing. I worked very hard to make the most of my baseball talent, but I didn’t think much about the Source of the talent. I had a narrow-minded view of life.
I didn’t go to Mass very often, but my wife, Tonya, and I started going together before we were married in 2010. It was a step in the right direction, but there was more that had to be surrendered. About three months before we were married, it dawned on both of us that we should be giving everything to God. Being superficial Catholics wasn’t good enough; so we started to heed a call of being transformed in Christ.
What were some of the things that helped you progress in that transformation?
Scott Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home is a favorite of mine. I’m not generally a huge book reader, but I couldn’t wait to get off the field to read that one. At batting practice, instead of thinking about baseball, I wondered what would happen next in Rome Sweet Home. Now, I recommend it to all my friends, Catholic or not, who are questioning or negative toward the Church.
What also helped in my transformation was the teaching of the “theology of the body” done by Pope St. John Paul II. It is simple yet so profound, and it really helped me understand my role in the Church, as well as in my marriage — the great gift of being a husband and father.
The basic idea of the theology of the body is that God created us male and female with specific purposes in mind. It’s not just a matter of arbitrary distinctions that we’ve come up with; being a man or being a woman brings different abilities and responsibilities that we are supposed to use at the service of each other.
Instead of seeing the beauty of a woman’s body as including the gift of fertility, our culture views fertility as a disease that needs controlling. The theology of the body, however, shows how we should always be open to the gift of new life, even if natural family planning is used. (I should add, though, that, despite popular misconceptions, NFP is extremely scientific and is based on an understanding of how a woman’s body functions.)
Once I surrendered to the truth of how to love authentically — which means: according to God’s design — my eyes were opened to really seeing how profound the gifts of masculinity and femininity are. This has made me want to share the revolutionary insights with others.
My wife and I have talked to two high-school youth groups on genuine love. I’m truly awful at public speaking, but young people pay more attention to professional athletes than to teachers or catechists, so I used my status to get an important message across. It’s strange that throwing a baseball will captivate people so much, but because it does, I try to direct it toward the right causes.
Do you think prayer has helped in your transformation?
No question about it. I used to think of prayer as something only done in church. If you couldn’t kneel in front of an altar, there was no point in praying, I thought. Now, I have the opposite take on it: that there’s no place you can’t pray. All of creation belongs to God, so anywhere you might be is the right place to talk with him.
I pray short prayers at different times of the day, and the Rosary is a grouping of prayers that I place a lot of trust in. Even if I can’t get an entire Rosary in, I at least try to complete a decade or two. We have easy access to Jesus through Mary, and then easy access to God the Father through Jesus. Some people want to know why we wouldn’t go directly to Jesus, but Mary knows him better than any of us, so when we go to her first, she gives us “accurate access” to the real Jesus, rather than one of our own making.
Is it tough to maintain a Catholic identity in pro baseball?
It can be, especially in the minor leagues and when I played in Korea last year. Both of those situations made it tougher to keep a normal schedule and get to Mass. However, in the major leagues, it is easier to do that, in large part to Ray McKenna. He’s the founder and president of Catholic Athletes for Christ, a group that promotes Catholicism in professional sports.
Ray has organized Masses for baseball players and other team employees at almost all of the MLB stadiums around the country. I’m grateful for his work because it comes from an understanding that generic Protestant worship, often termed “nondenominational” in pro baseball, is different from Catholic worship. The role of a validly ordained priest is necessary for Catholics, who value the unbroken link back to Jesus through apostolic succession.
What is your favorite part of fatherhood?
Everything. The birthday parties, first steps and first words are enjoyable, but so are the times when the kids wake up in the middle of the night or stumble or cry. I am so blessed to have a 2-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son that I don’t look at the things usually considered “high points” in order to get my fill. I’m so pleased to be in a profound, paternal relationship with the kids that everything becomes meaningful. It’s all good.
That mindset is helpful for baseball, too. Instead of thinking you have to be in the majors or have to be an All-Star or whatever, you simply appreciate the whole game. That way, whether you’re playing in A, AA, AAA or Major League Baseball, you still have fun — because you don’t need an exterior, self-imposed standard to give you happiness. Even as I’m rehabbing now, there aren’t any large, immediate rewards, but just being involved with baseball at all is enjoyable.
I hope I’ll still be thinking that way about fatherhood in 10 years, but I’m overjoyed now to be a father. You get so much out of leading, protecting and providing for a family that even the tough times are fun. It’s like what St. Augustine said about love — that if you love, you labor not. You see the great good involved, so the effort exerted is not really seen as effort at all. It’s probably because I love my wife and kids so much that it can be truthfully said that every day is Father’s Day for me.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book, Fit for Heaven (Beacon, 2015), contains numerous Catholic sports
interviews, most of which have appeared in the Register.